We Won The Gainesville 48 Hour Film Competition AGAIN!


2016 Gainesville 48 Hour Film Competition - Best of Show (with laurels)

Every year in late February the Digital Media program at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida holds a 48 hour film competition. If you don’t know what that is, this is how it works:

  • On Friday at 7pm, you and your team of no more than 5 receive a genre, a prop you must use in your film, and a line of dialog you have to have in your film somewhere. None of these things are known to any team before exactly 7pm on Friday.
  • You have 48 hours (typically, 7pm on Friday to 7pm on Sunday) to come up with a story, write a script, storyboard, plan the shoot (actors, shooting schedule, costumes, makeup/hair, etc…), shoot all the scenes, edit the movie, add in any effects, etc… you need, and deliver the film.
  • Film must be 3-5 minutes long.
  • You can have as many actors/actresses as you want/need–they don’t count towards you 5 member team.
  • The entry cost is $5 a person
  • Prize (this year) was $300.

This year we were just one of twenty-five teams that entered. It was the biggest year yet. The details of the competition were to be given at a hip coffee shop in downtown Gainesville: Volta. You could say the energy-infused name of the shop was perfect for this evening because the room was abuzz. Before a crowd of anxious filmmakers, Marc Shaboz, the host of the event and competition, announced the genre, prop, and line of dialog:

  • Genre: Vintage Sci-Fi
  • The prop: Battery
  • The line of dialog was: “So, it’s sorta social, demented and sad, but social. Right?” (The Breakfast Club, 1985).
Crowd of people waiting for an announcement
You could feel the anxiety in this moment.

What?!? Vintage Sci-Fi!?! I literally said aloud: “Aaaahhh… $h!+…”. Actually, I’m pretty sure I said that, like, really out loud (and I’m naturally pretty loud). In all the hustle & bustle, though, I’m fairly certain that no one from any of the other 24 teams squeezed into that tiny downtown coffee shop heard me. But, yeah… that was what we got. I was stunned.

I (nor any of my amazing team) had ever shot anything like a vintage sci-fi. It was horrifying and nerve-racking while at the same time exhilarating and full of problems to be solved. So, we got right to it. Jorgia McAfee (Elevens Productions), our amazing producer, script-writer, personnel manager, and lead actress extraordinaire had yet another trick up her sleeve: her parents. Jorgia’s parents are the kind of people where, as soon as you meet them, they immediately make you feel like family. They also happen to own Crime Prevention in Gainesville which is a very well-respected private home security installation and monitoring company. We were able to use their front conference room for pre-production as well as some of their spaces for a couple scenes in our film.

Conference room filled with snacks, drinks, and pizza.
Pre-production meeting at Crime Prevention. We were doing some research and keeping notes on the big screen.

Pizza was ordered, laughter was had, and brains started churning. The real work started when we compiled a list of a limited subset of the main themes of sci-fi which included:

  • Discovery (ex. Star Trek, time travel, etc…)
  • God Complex (ex. Frankenstein, Jurassic Park, etc…)
  • Good Science Gone Bad (ex. The Island, The Fly, etc…)
  • Alien Invasion (ex. Independence Day, etc…)

There are obviously more sci-fi story archetypes but we figured that was enough to get us started. So, we brain stormed a bit, threw out a couple crazy ideas waiting for one to gain some traction… Finally, a sorta Christopher Columbus story where an alien named, aptly, Christopher Columbus, discovers the “New World” (Earth) started to take root. We debated why he was coming to Earth for a quite a while… did his emperor send him here to learn more about what resources could be extracted? Was he there to see if humans would be worth enslaving? Was he there to find the love of his life? Etc…. We took each idea into consideration trying to come up with a decent plot for the premise and eventually landed on the last one, a love story, since it seemed the easiest. We could make it a story of an alien, the last of his kind, looking for a human wife to impregnate with his alien progeny. We started off with it being a serious idea and it evolved into a vintage sci-fi romance comedy (like, WTF?, haha). We were just about to pull the trigger on the idea that the alien comes to Earth with a checklist of superficial items he’s looking for in a “perfect mate” but, of course, “finds love” with the least-likely first girl he meets when he beams down from his spaceship into the bathroom. They live happily ever after. THE END. BLAH… That would have been our disastrously boring plot if it were not for my incredibly talented Asst. Director/Asst. Editor/Asst. Director of Photography/All-around-awesome-person and little brother Christian Harris (Aqueous Films). His creative “left field” insights led us to the final version of the much better story that is: My Martian:

The filming of this project was challenging at times, incredibly fun, and so so refreshing. It took me completely out of my comfort zone because it’s just so different than shooting a wedding or a commercial project. In fact, we chose to actually shoot the video in black and white. Presumably (and, I would say, evidently), most teams (actually, probably all of those that decided to do a b&w film) shot in color and converted to black and white in post. This was our plan as well until I started shooting the first scene and realized I kept switching to b&w to see if it would look good. As the DP, I made the executive decision to bite the bullet and forgo color altogether–and it was totally worth it. Not only was I able to perfect the look in the camera, it also saved rendering time in post–which is awesome because, you know… 48 hours…

Getting ready for the bathroom scenes.
Getting ready for the bathroom scenes. Christian (left) pondering about how the scene should play out, Lexley (right) locked and loaded, Nahum (center) prepping the Ronin for the under-stall scene.
Christian shooting into girls bathroom stall.
Christian being his typical self… shooting into a girls bathroom stall, haha.
Kyle with camera behind Jorgia in bathroom stall.
Kyle (me) getting the extra-pervy shot from behind the toilet. Shot wasn’t used but could have been cool.
Behind the scenes in bathroom shoot. Kyle shooting, Jorgia and Miguel acting, Lexley holding microphone boom.
A little bit of behind-the-scenes movie magic here. Christian is to the camera right behind Lexley (audio) getting the other angle. Daisy Mae (Jorgia) is in the background with Angel (Miguel) in the center walking away. I’m on the left catching Daisy Mae’s reaction.
Melanie Sholl and Jorgia McAfee.
The OH-so-talented Melanie Sholl and Jorgia McAfee all made-up for the epic final scene.
Daisy Mae (Jorgia McAfee) taking a selfie of the crew fixing mic pack in dress at Kanapaha Park.
Christian and I unzipping Jorgia’s dress for the 10th time to fix the wireless lapel she was wearing. No zippers were harmed in the making of this film.
Daisy Mae (Jorgia) and Betty (Ariel)
The unbelievably talented duo Ariel Reich (left) and Jorgia McAfee (right) playing Betty and Daisy Mae, respectively.
Kyle (me) (left) on tripod, Christian (right) on monopod. Jorgia and Ariel sitting on the bench.
Christian and I trying to figure out how to capture the shot of Daisy and Betty walking through the park.
Backyard view to Payne's Prairie.
The stump in the middle of this shot is the location of our second-to-last scene. This is at Jorgia’s parents’ house that backs up to Paynes Prairie. It was literally the most-perfect spot we could have ever dreamed of on the most-perfect night ever… full moon, stars, you name it.
Miguel and Lexlely holding each other while looking at the full moon over the prairie.
Lexley and Miguel having a special moment… while I was testing the camera and lighting setup for the star scene.
Lexley and Miguel sitting on stump with left to the left.
The light on the left was used to help mimic harsh moonlight. I think it worked pretty awesomely. Thank goodness for the Aputure battery-powered LEDs. They were AMAZING. It’s set to minimum brightness (10%) in this shot.
The gang on the stump with the camera.
Final prep with actors for star scene. It was shot on an A7sII with a Bower 14mm f/2.8 at f/5.6 at 64,000 ISO set about 2.5-3 fee behind the actors.
Snapshot of the back of the camera with Daisy Me laying on Angel, the alien's left shoulder.
Quick shot of the back of the screen in during the front-shot portion of the star scene. You can see the ISO at 51,200. This angle shot with an Nikon AF-D 85mm f/1.4 at f/2.8-ish. The A7sII is a beast.
Kyle and Christian at editing stations.
The next morning, we got to work editing on our favorite NLE: FCPX. Christian (left) is working on some compositions for Angel’s spaceship’s control panel. Kyle (me) (right) laying out the main story.
Overhead shot of Christian working on compositions in FCPX.
Christian working on the compositions in FCPX.
Overhead shot of Kyle working on main edit.
Kyle (me) working on the main edit. Notice the time on the clock and the Mountain Dew Code Red–a vital necessity.
Profile shot of Kyle working on main edit with Christian in background working on credits.
That beard though…
The FCPX timeline for My Martian.
What the final, edited timeline for My Martian looked like. All this was done between 9am and 5:30 PM on Sunday. Check out that sound design for the spaceship ambiance!

Two or three weeks later, the screening was held at Santa Fe. Twenty-five teams entered, twenty-three teams finished. I believe 17 of the entries were student entries, the other 6 finishers were “Open/Professional” entries. Our team, Sharpshooters, won both the “Open/Professional” and the “Best In Show” prize for the second year straight! I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished as a team and I can’t wait for next year!

Sharpshooters + Actors/Actresses:

  • Kyle Farris – Director, Director of Photography, Editor
  • Jorgia McAfee – Producer, Script Writer, Actress (Daisy Mae), Personnel Manager, provider of awesome
  • Christian Harris – Assistant Director, Assistant Editor, Assistant Director of Photography, Rocket Ship Puppeteer, insight-giver
  • Lexley Shelton – Sound Technician, Earth Puppeteer, laugh creator
  • Nahum Mau – Third Camera, BTS
  • Miguel Maya: Actor: Angel (alien)
  • Ariel Reich – Actress: Betty
  • Melanie Sholl – Actress: Alien’s daughter

Oh, and in case you were wondering… here’s our entry from last year:

The theme for last year was Supernatural, prop was Spoon, and the line of dialog was “Remember, no matter where you go… there you are.”